If you like your homes both smart and simple, Telstra might have just the solution for you.
While smart home technology is getting cheaper and more accessible all the time, there's one area where it's still sorely lacking: compatibility. Knowing which hubs support which devices and what updates you have to download to get everything working in harmony can be eminently frustrating, which is why Telstra has come out with an all-in-one solution that aims to make setting up and managing your smart home as easy as checking Facebook.
How does Telstra Smart Home work?
Telstra Smart Home differentiates itself from competing solutions by delivering a complete smart home package designed by a single company. Where most smart home solutions rely on compatibility between third-party hardware, Telstra Smart Home consists of smart devices built by Telstra itself or by its manufacturing partners.
This is something of a double-edged sword. While it means you can buy a Telstra Smart Home device confident that it'll work seamlessly with your Telstra Smart Home hub, it also gives Telstra a monopoly on those devices, leaving the telco free to charge whatever it wants without fear of competition. Similarly, by buying into Telstra's smart home ecosystem, you're then reliant on Telstra releasing new devices swiftly enough to keep up with the fast-paced smart home market. Right now, for example, Telstra does not offer any smart speakers for Telstra Smart Home, and it's possible it never will.
The other critical factor in Telstra's smart home solution is its pricing model. Unlike Apple's HomeKit products or Amazon's Echo devices, Telstra's offerings are not available to buy on their own. Instead, you must sign up for a Telstra Smart Home subscription and add devices to it, much like you would with a mobile phone plan. Also like a mobile phone plan, you'll need to maintain an active subscription for your smart devices to keep working. To enforce that, Telstra requires that your Telstra Smart Home hub is constantly connected to the Internet. Without that connection, most of your smart devices simply won't function.
Automations are rules you can set up for defining when your Telstra Smart Home should do certain things. For example, you can set up an automation that automatically locks your front door every night at 10pm, or one that sends an alert to your phone whenever you're out of the house and your backyard motion sensor is tripped.
Getting started with Telstra Smart Home
There are two basic Telstra Smart Home starter kits that include a Smart Home subscription: the Automation and Energy Starter Kit and the Watch and Monitor Starter Kit. Both come with the Telstra Smart Home hub that controls the rest of your smart devices via the Telstra Smart Home app, and each is available for $25 a month on a 24-month contract.
Automation and Energy Starter Kit
As the name suggests, the Automation and Energy Starter Kit is designed to save you money on your power bills by automating your energy use. Included in the kit are two smart power plugs that you can set to turn on and off at certain times of the day or when certain conditions are met. For instance, you could set them to shut off all the house lights at 10pm, or kill the AC when you lock the front door.
The kit also packs two door/window motion sensors for detecting when you've forgotten to shut the house up to keep the heat or cool air in, as well as a single wide-beam motion sensor which is useful for switching the lights on and off as you enter and exit a room.
Watch and Monitor Starter Kit
The Watch and Monitor Starter Kit is a basic security solution for keeping an eye on your house while you're at work, on holiday or just out and about for a while. It comes with an indoor camera capable of capturing HD videos and photos both on demand or when its built-in motion sensor detects movement. The kit also includes two separate motion sensors for mounting on your doors or windows. These can be set up to alert you whenever a door or window is opened or closed.
Customising your Telstra Smart Home
Once you've picked up one of the starter kits, it's relatively simple to add extra devices to it to expand your smart home's capabilities. Telstra currently offers a basic selection of devices in four categories: cameras, lights, sensors and household systems.
While Telstra offers two different cameras for Telstra Smart Home, they're functionally identical apart from their physical casing: one is dust- and weather-proof for outdoor areas, while the other is not. Other than that, they can both take HD photos and videos on demand or according to your pre-set automations. Adding an indoor camera to your Telstra Smart Home subscription will increase your Telstra Smart Home bill by $8 a month, while adding an outdoor camera will increase it by $9 a month.
For a one-off charge of $72, Telstra sells a pack of two Sengled smart lightbulbs that can be turned on and off both through the Telstra Smart Home app and via automations. The bulbs come with either bayonet or Edison fittings and are compatible with existing wall dimmers.
Three different motion sensors are available through Telstra: a door/window sensor, a narrow-beam sensor and a wide-beam sensor. The $24 door/window sensor simply monitors the status of the door or window it's mounted on, with the ability to send you an alert when that status changes. At $48 each, the narrow- and wide-beam sensors can be mounted anywhere and are designed to only go off when they detect people – pets can pass by them without incident.
The first of Telstra's household smart devices is the Lockwood smart lock, which is an electric door lock controlled by the Telstra Smart Home app rather than a set of keys. It also has a regular keypad for emergencies, for example when you've lost your phone or the power has gone out. A Lockwood smart lock will set you back an additional $19 a month on your Telstra Smart Home subscription.
Number two in the household category is the Zen smart thermostat. Provided you've got a compatible heating and cooling system, you can use the Zen smart thermostat to adjust your house's temperature from the Telstra Smart Home app, even when you're away from home. The Zen smart thermostat also features a touchscreen for manual control, in case you've temporarily misplaced your phone. Adding it to your Telstra Smart Home subscription will run you $9 extra a month.
The last of Telstra's household smart devices is a basic smart power plug, clocking in at $48. Once plugged in, it is capable of turning power on and off to any appliance connected to it. You'll want to note that this only works with appliances that remember their on/off state between power cycles – something like a gaming console, for example, won't automatically turn on when power is available as a lamp or radio will.
The future of Telstra Smart Home
Limited as Telstra's offerings are, the telco is promising that more is on the horizon. On the device front, Telstra plans to release a split-system heating/cooling controller, a garage door controller and a video doorbell. In terms of new features, the telco aims to add two-way audio to its cameras so you can talk to people who drop by your house while you're out, incorporate weather services so you can have your thermostat adjust itself based on the outside temperature, and integrate support for voice commands so you can simply tell your Telstra Smart Home to turn off the lights or unlock the front door instead of pulling out your phone and using the Smart Home app.